Out of nowhere, James Arness gifted his $2 million ranch to kids

The cowboy's own kids loved the ranch. Once they grew up, he donated the land to the neighborhood kids.

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Five years after Gunsmoke premiered, the classic TV Western’s star, James Arness, bought a ranch of his own in 1960.

According to United Press International, Arness spent most of his time at the ranch wearing his favorite Levis and a cowboy hat, spending time with his family and only rarely entertaining guests.

When he did have guests over, the TV cowboy loved to barbecue, while visiting friends and family let their kids run wild, riding his horses and swimming in his waterholes.

Having married his first wife in 1948 and adopting her young son, together they had two more, and in 1960, their three kids ranged in age from 8 to 14. Like their dad, there was nothing they loved more than spending time on the ranch.

By 1972, though, all of Arness’ kids had grown, and in the 12 years he spent on the ranch, he’d noticed what was going on in the neighboring land around his sprawling 950-acre property.

Next-door to Arness was the Brandeis Camp Institute, a Jewish youth organization where children and teens spent their summers engaged in outdoor activities.

After seeing how much joy the kids got out of the camp, Arness decided one day — completely out of the blue — to donate all of his land to those kids, a property worth $2 million.

"It was a very ecumenical act of philanthropy by Mr. Arness, who is not himself Jewish," Dr. Max W. Bay, the president of the Jewish youth organization, told The Orlando Sentinel in 1972.

"He spent a lot of time there and became aware of the impressive work done by the camp," his lawyer said in a statement after Arness made the donation.

When the Brandeis Camp Institute inherited the ranch, they inherited the houses, corrals, barns and outbuildings that Arness had built with his Gunsmoke fortune.

Since then, the institute has granted filmmakers access to the property where a futuristic building has been used as a film location for classic TV shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot, and an episode of Diagnosis: Murder.

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FlashbackTV 29 months ago
He was a walking pillar kindness... I must find the episode ( Festus ) gets mocked out from behind while sitting at a desk, when he falls over in the chair. You can see the words ( GUNSMOKE ) written on the bottom of the chair, obviously they labeled their props... Knowing those sets & locations were cross shared with other shows ! It's right there in plain site... When I find the episode I'll post it here & if anyone eles knows it... Please share !
HalWright 30 months ago
It's satisfying to know that the man who embodied Matt Dillon was himself a man of good character.
yankeelady 30 months ago
Love James Arness he was a Great mam
Oscar 30 months ago
Makes me wonder if his brother Peter and family visited and had good times there with Jim Arness and his family. Talk about tall in the saddle!!
Pacificsun 30 months ago
Attention Class:

Who'd like to assume this reading assignment:
The Autobiography of James Arness
To clear up all the questions below?

Actually the writers should've peaked at it.

VanHalen 30 months ago
This is no surprise. I was watching a really good Gunsmoke show one day. It impressed on me how great a portrayal Big Jim had done. Looked up his 'contact' address and sent him ( by USPS ) a brief letter of thanks for all his great years of work. Also, how he made a positive impact on all of us "young guns." And guess what ? I went to the mailbox and found an 11 X 14 autographed photo and personal reply too. Jim passed away about 4 - 5 months later.
FLETCH 30 months ago
Very generous thing to do but how about his own kids? I hope they were financially stable enough to not need the ranch as an inheritance.
LoveMETV22 FLETCH 30 months ago
After reading the article a few things didn't match. According to the Wikipedia page on the
"Brandeis Camp Institute" the ranch was gifted to them by Arness in 1968, maybe the actual transfer took place in 1972?. At the time of his passing his net worth was 27 million plus. So the ranch was gifted long before he passed and the article seems to refer to the information in 1972 terms. Still an interesting and inspiring story.
LoveMETV22 FLETCH 30 months ago
The Wikipedia page refers to it as Brandin-Bardin Institute, the 1968 reference is in" the History"section:


VanHalen LoveMETV22 30 months ago
One might assume so. Read MY post.
country46 FLETCH 30 months ago
his daughter committed suicide after breaking up with Greg Allman back in the day I can't remember the date and I don't know if that was his only kid
country46 30 months ago
it's hard to find people like that in todays world I think it was great
Runeshaper 30 months ago
That was super kind and generous of Mr. Arness.
Zip 30 months ago
What a nice thing to do, but not surprising since James seemed like a pretty good guy.
Spiro 30 months ago
Well that was 'right neighborly'!

It's a beautiful thing!
Chavella13 30 months ago
Wow, this is really cool! I wish more people were like this. I’m in a grade that people are mean to each other (middle school)
VanHalen Chavella13 30 months ago
I can believe that Chavella.
Chavella13 VanHalen 30 months ago
Sadly it is true… I’m doing more than my share to continue to go to camp this year!
Andybandit 30 months ago
That was nice of James to do that for the neighborhood kids.
MrsPhilHarris 30 months ago
Interesting story. Very generous.
WordsmithWorks 30 months ago
That was unbelievably cool of Arness to donate his ranch to the camp. I wonder if they had a "good neighbor" relationship. I also wonder how his children really felt about the $2 million donation.
Good question. I know he had a daughter that died of a drug overdose in the 70s. Actually the ex-wife died of an o.d. as well.
Toonhead MrsPhilHarris 30 months ago
Apparently he was a very private sort of person. I’m sure that his family didn’t suffer from his generosity. I’m sorry to hear about his daughter and ex. Very sad. I always enjoyed his performances both in movies and on tv. I mean who could forget that he was the intelligent carrot thing in “Thing From Another World “ or the fearless exterminator in “Them!”? Lol!👏👍😎
MrsPhilHarris Toonhead 30 months ago
The carrot was priceless. 🥕
Toonhead MrsPhilHarris 30 months ago
We aim ta please, ma’am! Nice to hear from you. 👍😎
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